“I view education as prevention” says top traffic cop

Chief Inspector Lauren Leverington, Officer in Charge Barossa LSA; Ms Ashton Hurn, Schubert Liberal candidate for next year’s state election; Mr Stephan Knoll, Member for Schubert and Mr Vincent Tarzia, Minister for Police and Emergency Services at last Wednesday’s Road Safety Forum.

“SAPOL’s not all about enforcement, we are very big in our education sphere and we invest heavily because I view education as prevention,” said Superintendent Bob Gray, Officer in Charge Traffic Services Branch, during a Road Safety Forum held at Nuriootpa Football Club last Wednesday.

Dangerous intersections, speed limits and the importance of driver education for young people were among the on-going concerns raised by those attending the event hosted by Mr Stephan Knoll, Member for Schubert and the electorate’s Liberal candidate for next year’s state election, Ms Ashton Hurn, who welcomed close to 40 community members and introduced SI Gray and fellow guest speakers, Mr Vincent Tarzia, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Chief Inspector Lauren Leverington, Officer in Charge Barossa Local Service Area (LSA).

Minister Tarzia said it was “incumbent upon everyone” to change the culture of road users and acknowledged the work of emergency services personnel.

“Everyone lost on our roads is a complete tragedy, a tragedy not only for the families of the victims involved but also to our first responders,” Minister Tarzia said.

He described new pieces of legislation being developed to combat the frightening statistics, including new extreme speed laws and a graduated license scheme for motorcyclists, whilst also highlighting  additional funding for roads and safety campaigns.

“We are doing everything we can to change, from an attitude point of view, this expectation that there has to be serious injury, it doesn’t have to be that way… We just have to keep chipping away.”

But it was SI Gray’s grim local statistics that brought home the reality of the region’s situation.

“I can tell you that you have lost 44 lives in your community in the last five years to  the end of 2020, and tragically you have lost 11 this year,” SI Gray told the audience.

“Males are way over represented, 75% over the last 5 years are males that are dying in your community and this year 10 out of the 11 have been males.”

He said 55% of lives lost on our roads were attributed to distraction, the number one cause of fatalities during the past 5 years.

“This year, unfortunately, 50 percent were attributed to speed so out of the 11 people you’ve lost in the community, 50 per cent of those people were driving at excessive speed.”

SI Gray said the Barossa was generally positioned as the fourth worst region for lives lost and serious injury crashes in South Australia.

“In the last 5 years, you’ve had about 240 serious injury crashes….and you’ve had in excess of 1,200 minor crashes.”

He also noted 24% of people who had lost their lives in the Barossa community were not wearing a fitted seatbelt and that the age demographic of lives lost in rural areas was generally 70 years or over or between 16 and 25. 

“It’s really important to contemplate that,” said SI Gray.

The floor was opened to the audience who were quick to point out notorious black spots like the Greenock Rd/Moppa Rd/Samuel Rd intersection; where they would like speed limits reduced and stop signs introduced, and which roads to prioritise for upgrades.

The topic of hoon drivers and youth driver training initiatives were also discussed.

All government representatives, including  Barossa LSA CI Leverington, welcomed the public’s input and expressed an interest to “follow up”.

“For me it’s really about working on a partnership approach with all of you,” CI Leverington told the gathering. 

“We are trying to talk to most of the sporting clubs at the moment and set up similar things to this so that we can build the relationships of the police back into the community and start the conversations.”

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